for Parents and Guardians
First thing you might be asking; “isn't Queer a bad word?” And this is a great thought to delve deeper into. Slurs are often reclaimed by communities and now, the word “Queer” is an all encompassing word for ANYONE who is not cisgender (the gender they were assigned at birth) and not heterosexual (attracted to the opposite gender). It's a great word to use as individuals discover what words best fit them, or keep their personal information ambiguous. There are so many great conversations to be had, so please explore the information below and become an even more amazing support system for your child!
What is Gender?
You might have heard phrases such as “Gender is a Spectrum” but it's a bit more nuances than that. If your child identifies as something other than a boy or girl, they might not be between those two gender, but rather a whole separate identity. To the right is a Gender Triangle that shows how a change in gender or pronouns does not always more laterally.
Gender Fluid- Someone who is flexible in their gender identity and it's often subject to change. Check in with this person more regularly about what they want to be referred to.
Gender Queer- A person who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders.
Agender - A person who does not identify themselves as having a particular gender.
Non-Binary - Similar phrase to Gender Queer, but usually means you are distinct not in the gender binary but connect with the idea of gender.
Why do Pronouns Matter?
Avoid phrases such as "you are a they/them." Rather, say "you use they/them pronouns" and you can ask someone what gender they identify with.
Always share your pronouns when introducing to be a good ally and show that it is normal to share pronouns!
Pronouns can change! So check in with your child and be open to changes
First things first; gender DOES NOT equal pronouns. I know, it can be a bit confusing. Pronouns, like nouns or descriptive words, are just a way in which someone can express themselves.
Your child might identity as non-binary and use a binary pronoun such as she/her for a myriad of reason (ex. she still identifies with forms of womanhood). Your child might be identifying as a male, but they/them just feels better. When in doubt, just ask someone how they'd like to be referred to.
What if it's hard to get used to your child's new pronouns or name? Talk with a friend and practice using these new terms in a safe space to mess up. You are human, you need practice and practicing will mean a lot to your child.
Neo-pronouns- These are pronouns that are new to the English Language and are often used when pronouns just don't fit right.
Name Pronouns- This is when rather than using a pronoun, someone just prefers you use their name. This is also a great thing to do if you don't know someone's pronouns and haven't been able to ask.
Does My Child Need to be Genderqueer to Explore Their Gender?
Quick answer; No!
Gender is a great thing for everyone to explore. With your son, discuss what it means to be a man, what does that look like, what does a man act like? Is a man just a man because of the gender he was assigned at birth? These are great questions to discuss and discussing gender with your children will give them a better sense of self. They will be sure of themselves and when they are in situations where they have to make tough decisions, they will have the conviction and confidence to do what they know to be right.
Presentation is how someone shows themselves to the world. This can be things like a girl who is a “tomboy,” where that presentation has nothing to do with her gender or sexuality, she just really likes sporty clothes. A boy could dress really nice and paint his nails, still nothing to do with gender and sexuality. The way in which children present themselves to the world is ever-changing and doesn't connect to their gender and sexuality. However, sometime it might be tool to express this part of themselves. For example, if your child begins exploring being a trans man, he might begin dressing more masculine. If you see these stark changes in presentation, have a conversation about whether it means anything, and trust your child's instincts to dress a certain way that expresses themselves.
My Child Came Out As Gay, What Do I Do?
A lot of people have written on this topic, and you are not alone in being unsure! Here are some helpful articles:
When in doubt, ask questions with care, do your research (which you are already doing!) and be kind to yourself. This could be a big change in your family, so reflect, speak with other family members and figure out how you can better understand and support.
"IT'S JUST A PHASE!"
The thing is — it might be. BUT it is not for you to decide, and you want to continue to let your child exploring themselves without feeling judged. Human beings inherently have phases, so believe and validate them for where they are currently at.
My Child Wants Medical Intervention, and I'm Nervous It Will Be Irreversible!
Fair feeling! It can be scary to allow your child to change themselves medically. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is one of those big actions that often make parents nervous, so let's talk about it:
MYTH: My child will take HRT, and it will be irreversible!
FACT: HRT typically is started after age 16. Before then, your child could use hormone blockers that stop the development of secondary sex characteristics. When they are stopped, your child will begin puberty like anyone else.
FACT: HRT is a hormone like any other, your body just needs a hormone to run off of. If you take birth control, you are giving yourself a hormone to run off of. HRT replace the hormone in which the body runs function. Usually, when someone decides to stop taking an HRT, their body will revert to running off of the hormone they were born predominantly producing.
FACT: Some changes are reversible and some are not, it always depends on the dose and length someone has been taking a hormone. When taking Testosterone, things like voice changes and clitoral growth are not irreversible. When taking Estrogen, things like breast development are irreversible. As these are variable, it's important to consult a doctor.
FACT: There is a process of “micro dosing,” often used by Non-Binary folks, is when HRT is taken in minimal amounts to have minimal changes such as voice or body fat distribution. This is a good option for people who don't want massive changes and might way to see the effect first before diving into large doses.
FACT: These hormones are frequently life-saving. Queer youth are 4 times more likely than their peers to commit suicide (Trevor Project) and often feeling affirmed in one's body and having a safe space to do so saves lives. Listen to your child and find a way for them to feel affirmed and you to feel safe in their decision.
Sources & Links : Mayo Clinic, NHS, Children's Hospital Gender Multi-specialty Service, Gender Conformation Center, The Trevor Project, Lambda Legal
What Are Fun Ways to Get Involved in the Queer Community?
Being part of the Queer Community can be awesome and fun! You want your child to have positive connection with this part of themselves, not just negative connotations. Here are some places to start;
These range from Nintendo Night to BIPOC Queer Safe Space
They are free and open to drop in
Mixture of online and in-person events
They run a number of in-person programs similar to BAGLY
This organization has a number of parent support groups and meetings.